Issue of February 22, 2015
Mt. Province

Baguio Day Anniversary Issue
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Thinking Out of the Box

Last Sunday’s press conference with Agriculture Sec. Proceso Alcala at the Agricultural Training Institute in La Trinidad proved an eye-opener for one reason: the great divide that separates government functionaries like him from those in the media profession.

The press conference was supposedly called for Alcala to discuss the plan of a group of Japanese investors to buy vegetables raised in this region for the Japanese market.

The investors, he said, were initially keen on carrots, radish and even beans. It was not clear exactly why but the Agriculture Secretary adverted to “good agricultural practices” supposedly practiced by local farmers as the reason that may have gained the nod of the Japanese investors.

The information merited one question but it failed to elicit follow-ups and the rest of the reporters shifted to more familiar concerns such as the intrusion of squatters into the Bureau of Plant Industry compound or the soon-to-operate Benguet Agri-Pinoy Trading Center (BAPTC).

It was also doubtful if some of the news reporters present eventually wrote about the impending entry of Japanese buyers.

Anything that impacts on agriculture is certainly news, a particularity distinct to this region or notably to the vegetable-producing towns of Benguet, Mountain Province, and Ifugao.

But if the message borders on the unknown or on the esoteric even, how can the purveyors of information be able to appreciate its worth, and by extension, relay it in news form to the public in simple and comprehensible terms?

We refer of course to the propensity of government agricultural officials and their subordinates in liberally spicing their speeches with such catch-phrases such as “good agricultural practices, GAP-compliant, safe vegetable production, globally-competitive products, and certification,” among other things without explaining their meanings.

Is organic agriculture part of GAP as one government TV outfit reporter wondered? Or is it one practice more to be desired?

The vegetable industry of this region, no doubt, is in a most interesting stage considering the impending implementation of the global free trade market and the operation of the BAPTC.

By way of unsolicited advice, it does not probably diminish anything if the Department of Agriculture unveils what amounts to an information package for the media industry to enable it to acquire a solid grasp of the directions the government has embarked upon in the field of agriculture.

Enlightened and not kept in the dark, the media industry in this region can help drumbeat advocacies and even churn out more interesting storylines other than frosts or pesticide-induced deaths.

The information that organic agriculture remains hobbled by lack of guidelines four years since it has been made into law is one advocacy worthy of consideration itself. Of course like Sec. Alcala who seems not to run out of ideas and who gets out of his way to meet people, this means stepping out and thinking out of the box if one is to effectively put the message across.

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